I spend 40+ hours a week in a 12-story building with four elevators. I ride the elevator quite often, and I’ve observed an odd phenomenon: people regularly—and unintentionally—get off the elevator on the wrong floor. (Yes, I’ve actually done this myself.) This probably sounds familiar to you: no one’s speaking on the elevator, its cables are making odd creaking sounds, and you’re looking at your phone for no reason whatsoever. FINALLY the bell dings and the door opens. A crowd of people exits, and you mindlessly follow them out before noticing that this isn’t actually the floor you needed. When that happens, you have two options:
- Immediately hop back on the elevator before the doors close, simultaneously undoing your mistake and announcing to everyone still on board that you are aloof.
- Keep walking with the crowd, PRETENDING that this is where you wanted to go in the first place. Then break away, take the stairs or reboard the elevator, and walk/jog briskly to your intended destination (a few minutes late, perhaps, but with your pride intact).
Getting off on the wrong floor happens when we follow the crowd and don’t think about where exactly we want to go. And wow…doesn’t that happen a lot in the business and nonprofit world?
I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for the stubborn organizations that stay aware of their intended destination and refuse to follow the competition just because (metaphorically) they’re all getting off the elevator on the same floor. Intermarché, the French supermarket, is a shining example of this practice. Check out this fantastic video by Marcel, the agency that cooked up the Intermarché inglorious fruits and vegetables ad campaign:
Instead of of following everyone else off the elevator (perpetuating the use of rigid cosmetic standards to determine which fruits and vegetables could/should be sold), the Intermarché inglorious fruits and vegetables initiative asks, “What if people want natural produce…not just pretty produce?”
- “Maybe we’re selling great service rooted in Christian values, not just chicken sandwiches.” (Chick-fil-A)
- “What if people want good food but don’t need a restaurant experience?” (food trucks)
- “Can we sell a hip, upscale environment where people gather, instead of just selling coffee?” (Starbucks)
- “Lots of companies build clunky gadgets. What if we built premium, sleek, intuitive devices?” (Apple)
- “Does decently-fashionable clothing have to be insanely expensive?” (H&M)
- “Why isn’t there an ultra high-performance cooler?” (Yeti)
- “Why do I need an office?” (the mobile workforce)
So…a challenge: Are you mindlessly following everyone else off the elevator without asking, “Is this where I really want to go?” Give me a shout, of course, if you’re looking to do something different—let’s put our heads together. (Unless you can afford to hire Marcel, the agency behind the Intermarché inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign; in that case, calling them is probably a great idea.) And feel free to use the comments section below to post your own examples of organizations who choose to zig when everyone else zags.